It seems like the last year has been dominated by one storyline in the MMA world and that’s Conor McGregor’s quest to transcend MMA and fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match. The idea has caught fire with mainstream sports fans and has picked up steam with those who want to see the fight. UFC President Dana White has committed himself to doing what he can to make the fight happen. The fight seems seemed like it was an impending reality. However, there’s a whole bunch of rain for that parade everyone is having.
Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President of Showtime Sports, recently spoke with Chris Mannix about the negotiations for the fight. In the interview, the Showtime executive wasn’t all that optimistic about the fight actually happening.
“The biggest battle in Mayweather-Pacquiao was both guys really thinking that the other wanted to do it,” said Espinoza. “That part has happened [with McGregor and Mayweather], so I think the real question – and it’s sort of a black box right now – is where’s the UFC really, on this? Do they, in fact, want it? Dana – speaking on behalf of, I assume, the UFC – is making noises that he’s more open to it but talk is talk. I haven’t seen a lot of progress either internally in the deal between the two of them or externally, the deal between that side and this side. It’s largely at a standstill. There hasn’t been a ton of progress and I think if they don’t move relatively quickly, people may move on. People may tire of it. But it really is something that needs to happen this year, or it probably won’t happen. Floyd’s on 18 months, two solid years come September since he’s fought. He’s still in great shape, but at a certain point, he’s not gonna do it after a while.”
Showtime was the home for every Mayweather PPV since signing with them in 2013 and figures to be the carrier for the super fight if it ends up happening. There will be a point where McGregor and the UFC will need to negotiate terms with Showtime as well as bout agreement terms with Mayweather. White has said that he intends to make this fight happen if he can, and given the fact that this bout necessarily ties up his lightweight champion until it’s done as it would be a good thing for the sport and the UFC. Espinoza postulates that the delay in negotiations stem from the UFC not really being committed to making the fight for fear of losing McGregor permanently.
“I think part of the fear on the UFC’s side is that they’ll never see Conor again. If he makes 50, 60, 70 and then you never see him in the ring, and he retires in Ireland and so much for their megastar.”
If White turns out to be right and McGregor earns $75M, it’s possible he opts to actually retire as he once threatened to do last year, which would have a big impact on the UFC as he is the promotion’s top fighter. If McGregor should win, suddenly a whole host of boxing matches become available to him that are far more lucrative than any UFC endeavor.